Wednesday, April 19, 2017


A few wonderful e-mails from teachers and school librarians that recently arrived in my inbox:

"Our 4th grade students read The Riddle of Penncroft Farm every year. The 4th grade teachers asked me to check in and see if you would be willing to skype with the class after they read it this year. Let me know your thoughts!" Jennifer Winstead, Germantown, TN

Of course, I was delighted to do that! After that fun experience, I decided to look around the internet and see who else was using Riddle in the classroom and letting them know I like to do e-visits to classrooms. I also keep getting "spontaneous" e-mails straight from students, who then tell their teachers we have been in contact, and then the teachers write me directly. Between my googling and spontaneous e-mails from students, teachers and librarians, I have now done four classroom e-visits, with more scheduled. As you can see by the picture below, I really enjoy talking to these kids!

'LOVE YOUR BOOK!  I just wanted to let you know that in my district our 4th grade gifted students read your book every year.  As a result, I have read "The Riddle of Penncroft Farm" eighteen times and it never gets old.  Every single student I've ever taught has also loved it, and learned so much while reading it!  The story is so interesting and well crafted.  I appreciate, and the students definitely notice, all of complex wordplay throughout the story and the story itself touches me every time - I always get choked up when reading about Aunt Cass's death. THANK YOU for creating such an amazing story!!! Sue Saddlemire, Newtown, PA

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"[The Riddle of Penncroft Farm] is a tie into one of our units on conflict and the Revolutionary War.. .all three 5th grade teachers at my school are reading it as a read aloud right now. . . I still consider it one of my favorites! I love all the connections students have to make as we read." - Holly Schlagel, Ft. Collins, CO
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"I am a 5th grade teacher . . .and have been reading and teaching your novel, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, for the past 15 years!  Every year I can't wait for my students  get to know Lars, Geordie, Will, and of course Sandy!  After 15 years, you'd think I would get bored teaching this novel, but during every single read, I learn something new!. . .We even take an annual trip to the City Tavern for a lovely brunch. . .my colleague and I love to see the kids enter this historic building."  Sara Shaiman, Havertown, PA

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"I love this book, and can't wait to share it with my fifth graders as we learn about the American Revolution this year." - Ms. Stacy E. Walsh, Melbourne, FL

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"​Hello, Ms. Jensen.  I have been reading your novel with my 4th graders for several years.  It is a wonderful story and a great history lesson. " -Elise Weinstein, Newtown, PA

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NOTE: If you know any teachers who are using The Riddle of Penncroft Farm or A Buss from Lafayette in their classes, please let them know I would enjoy answering their students' questions via FaceTime or Google Hangouts, time permitting.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

George Washington Makes a Joke (sort of); Part I

Julien holding the letter from George Washington
In my peregrinations with Julien Icher, the young Frenchman who is tracing the 1824-5 New England trail of General Lafayette, we made a stop at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH. Librarian Sara Galligan was kind enough to allow us to look at the documents in the society's collection that pertain to New Hampshire's own Revolutionary General, John Sullivan.

One of these documents was an actual letter written by GW to Sullivan on September 1, 1778. Because I knew a little of what this epistle related to, I found it to be absolutely fascinating. I will explain this in my next few posts.

First of all, here is what I wrote about the situation in A Buss from Lafayette. Please keep in mind that the principal American commander referred to in this excerpt who was greatly offended was General Sullivan. As a result, he wrote a number of VERY angry letters complaining about the French.

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“Did Grandfather see the celebration at Valley Forge when the French alliance was announced?” queried Joss eagerly. “It sounds as if it was very exciting!”

“He did indeed,” Prissy said. “But when everyone was cheering at Valley Forge, they little suspected how difficult it would be for the French and American military leaders to work together. They were a little like you two: supposedly on the same side, but as prickly as porcupines!”

Joss and I exchanged a glance.

Prissy said that although the French government had been sending us secret loans and supplies since 1776, the first overt aid they sent over was a fleet of warships in July, 1778. This French fleet was ordered to blockade Rhode Island to help the American commander, General Sullivan, dislodge the British there. D’Estaing, the French admiral, may have been rather offended at this, because no one had consulted with him beforehand about the planned venture.

“Therefore, after initially assisting the Continentals in their attack,” our stepmother said, sounding more and more like a schoolmarm, “D’Estaing and his fleet sailed away towards New York. He did seek to engage a British naval squadron after he left, but his departure left the American forces in Rhode Island to face the enemy without French support.”

Joss snorted. “I am sure we Americans did not like that!”

Our stepmother explained that before D’Estaing encountered the British squadron, he ran into a storm that damaged his fleet. Afterwards—again without consulting the Americans—the French admiral had sailed off to Boston to make repairs to his ships, which further offended our commanders. “I doubt the alliance would have worked in the end if not for Lafayette,” she concluded.    

“He smoothed down everyone’s ‘quills?’” I asked.

“Yes, Lafayette hurried to Boston to smooth things over.                                                         -A Buss from Lafayette, © 2016  by Dorothea Jensen

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Following Lafayette's Trail with Another Very Charming Frenchman

As some of you know, my latest historical fiction for young readers, A Buss from Lafayette, details what General Lafayette did for our country during the American Revolution, when as a very young man, slender and six feet tall, and brimming with good humor and charm, he came to serve with General Washington.

My story is also about Lafayette's Farewell Tour of 1824-5, when he traveled around the U.S. attracting huge crowds and charming everyone he met. In A Buss from Lafayette, a key moment is when a young girl, Clara Hargraves, meets Lafayette, more than five decades her senior, at Brown's Brook, a small stream in Hopkinton, New Hampshire (where I live and where the story is set).

I just had a tiny taste of my fictional heroine Clara's experience. Without the crowds. And the Frenchman in question was slender, six feet tall, brimming with good humor and charm, and nearly five decades my junior.

Julien Icher is the Frenchman in question. A fellow member of the American Friends of Lafayette, Julien, funded by the French consul in Boston, is researching the route taken by the world-famous general through New England on his Farewell Tour. For a couple of days, I went with him. We had so much fun!

Julien and I at Brown's Brook, a place where Lafayette never made a stop   
             except fictionally in A Buss from Lafayette

The first day, we explored five towns which Lafayette did actually visit on June 27, 1825.

First of all, we met at the New Hampshire State House in Concord, where on June 22, 1825, Lafayette was welcomed inside by the State legislators and outside by over 200 Revolutionary War veterans and sat down to dine with over 600 people. (This was the event when a song composed for the occasion called New Hampshire the "Granite State" for the very first time.)  Julien had previously made a visit to the State House with the French Consul and been welcomed to the state by Governor Sununu, so we went on to view the house in Concord where Lafayette had spent the night. Owned at the time by William Kent, it was located at the site of the South Congregational Church on Pleasant Street. (Not only did Lafayette stay there in 1825, but Kent's stepdaughter married Ralph Waldo Emerson in the north parlor of the house.) It has since been moved to Spring Street.

Next we picked up my husband and viewed the Lafayette marker in Hopkinton, where the general stopped for a brief reception on June 27, 1825. The date on this marker is incorrect, so Julien and I gave it both a thumbs up AND a thumbs down.

(Tomorrow's post will go on from here.)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Modern Conveniences a la 1825 New Hampshire

Clara’s house in Hopkinton N.H. in 1825, has all the “modern conveniences”, including a granite slab sink and and pump for water. This, of course, saved her stepmother the trouble of lugging in buckets of water from the well and carrying waster water outside again. Assuming that many young people have never seen or worked a water pump, I asked my grandson, Alex, to show us how it’s done. (This was at the new Moxi Museum in Santa Barbara, CA.) As you can see, operating a pump required much more effort than turning on a spigot!

(If the video does not show up on your mobile device, you can watch this on YouTube. Here is the link:

Friday, April 7, 2017

So proud to have military followers!

Many members of our military, from men of lower ranks up through quite a few generals with three or four stars, follow me on Google. As I have written two historical novels for young readers about the American Revolution, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm and A Buss from Lafayette, I presume they follow me because they have an interest in American history.

For whatever reason they do this, however, I am VERY honored!

Thank you all so much for serving and sacrificing for our country.

Dorothea Jensen

So thrilled to have Buss selling at a location mentioned in the story!

I am delighted to share this picture with you from the website of the American Independence Museum, in Exeter, New Hampshire,  

It is a photo of one of the copies of A Buss from Lafayette they have in their gift shop.

Of course, it is wonderful to have my book for sale there because it is a museum about our fight for independence, but  it is also wonderful for another reason. The building that houses the American Independence Museum was the home of Nicholas Gilman, who is mentioned in A Buss from Lafayette.

In this short excerpt, Trueworthy Gilman, (an actual resident of Hopkinton, NH, where the story takes place) talks about his "kinsman", Nicholas Gilman, 

One of the men asked if Gilman’s relative had witnessed the surrender at Yorktown.
“Aye. In fact, he was in charge of documenting the prisoners as they surrendered. This was a mighty big job, as there were well over eight thousand Lobsterbacks who laid down their weapons that day.”  

And here is what I said about Trueworthy and Nicholas Gilman in the Afterword: 

Trueworthy Gilman ran a store in Hopkinton. I do not know if he was actually related to
Captain Nicholas Gilman, Jr., who was in charge of tallying the British surrendering at Yorktown. As he shared a surname with Captain Gilman and had an interesting first name, however, I put him in my story. Captain Gilman’s home in Exeter, New Hampshire, is now a museum about the American Revolution called the American Independence Museum. Besides serving in the Revolutionary War, Captain Gilman was also a signer of the Constitution, and later served as a U.S. Senator.